Kent Cricket Ground plays host to Northwest Cricket League

A sport growing in popularity in the states has the chance to get even bigger.

“Good bowling!” and “Nice running boys!” are phrases that can be heard throughout the Meridian Middle School area in Kent on Saturdays and Sundays.

The city of Kent is home to the Kent Cricket Ground at North Meridian Park and Ballfields, a cricket ground that gets plenty of use thanks to the Northwest Cricket League.

The men’s league consists of 50 teams across four divisions, with 48 teams from Washington and two from Oregon. The teams all have home fields ranging from Bellingham to Salem and even Spokane. The Kent Cricket Ground, 22828 120th Ave. SE, is home to the Pacific Orcas and the Sher-E-Punjab Warriors, both of which were on the road so two teams played at a neutral site.

On Aug. 13, the Ti2C Challengers played the Mavericks at the Kent Cricket Ground. The Mavericks moved into second place in Division A, beating the Challengers by 195 runs, a blowout by many standards.

Bowler for the Challengers captured in mid-air at Kent Cricket Ground. (Ben Ray/Sound Publishing)

Bowler for the Challengers captured in mid-air at Kent Cricket Ground. (Ben Ray/Sound Publishing)

The Challengers are in a unique position in the league as most of the players on the team are just entering high school or beginning their sophomore year. The teams that they play? They are all made up of older adult players.

Most of the kids have played cricket since they were little, and parents and family members urged them to play the game.

“My dad wanted me to play,” said Yuvan Vinod, who also played football. He didn’t know what specifically about the game he liked, but he did know “I like to score runs, it’s really fun.”

In cricket, the bowler (pitcher) bowls the ball toward the wickets where the wicket keeper (catcher) and the batter stand. The batsman’s goal is to protect the wicket and also score runs for his team. This is because once he gets bowled or called out, his day up to bat is done.

The wicket keeper is an important position on the field, and Aryan Nannaware is that player for the Challengers.

“Every time there is a good bowl or the batsman misses or edges it, you have to have to catch it and you stop the runs,” he said. With the bat in his hand, Nannaware led the Challengers with 77 runs on 87 balls.

Anirudh Talluri was the opening bowler for the Challengers, and when facing older teams, he doesn’t pay it any extra mind.

“I don’t really mind, I guess. Just being adaptable and having a good line and good length,” Talluri said.

Talluri and other bowlers on the Challengers are called fast bowlers. They throw the ball with speed as the difficult factor, but for Veekshit Balaji, he has a different approach. As the only spin bowler on the team he focuses on finesse: “I like it, it’s cool,” he said.

The Mavericks had a huge score after the first 20 overs. Krishan Dhawan wanted to keep the focus going into the final 20. He did that tallying a team leading three wickets.

“Keep it simple and focus on the off rather than pitching it on their legs,” he said.

The Kent Cricket Ground was recently converted from a baseball field in 2022, and has no irrigation, thus creating a rough playing surface. The dead grass creates a really fast surface. Along with the spots of dirt, those provide opportunities for bad hops to potentially injure a player.

“Most fields the grass is tall. This one is fine. But most fields have tall grass. It runs way better and for fielding as well, it’s way more safer,“ said Nannaware.

Cricket grounds in South King County do not look how they are supposed to look. The only green is the artificial turf that the bowlers throw the ball down and batter stands on. In the outfield of the baseball field, there are spots with grass and other spots where grass used to be. Transitioning from cement and artificial turf to real grass and clay could give KCG a huge advantage.

“In Seattle there are only one or two turf wickets, so we should have more turf wickets,” Nannaware said.

The city of Kent has the potential to create a premier cricket facility in South King County. And the city is actively working on creating a hub for the sport. In the near future, “a public planning process for renovations to North Meridian Park is scheduled to start in 2024,” said Brian Levenhagen, the deputy director of Kent Parks, in a statement to the Kent Reporter.

KCG is currently being used as a “practice” facility while Kent Parks continues to look for an irrigated cricket pitch, Levenhagen said. The hope is that “as Kent Parks has clearly communicated with the cricket group, the pitch at North Meridian Park is a temporary solution until a long term home for cricket in Kent can be found,” Levenhagen stated.